Just when you thought it couldn't get worse, it does! The Eagles fall again in the rankings this week after their fifth straight loss. It's funny to think that after their encouraging 3-1 start to the season they are in the exact same position they were at this time last year: 3-6, no Michael Vick, and no hope of making the playoffs. They have an interesting matchup with the Redskins this week, and we'll get into that after the rankings.
|6||New York Giants||14.778||-2|
|25||New York Jets||-18.721||-3|
- Whatever Atlanta did to lose last week, it was apparently something right. They actually moved up one spot in the rankings in spite of suffering their first loss of the season. I didn't watch the game or really read any recaps on it, but it doesn't surprise me that they could improve their play in a losing effort. I documented in the post preceding their game against the Eagles that they were far from perfect, most particularly on defense. The idea that they could lose and yet technically play "better" than they had versus previous opponents should not be a real surprise.
- Who's the biggest disappointment this year? A lot of teams were supposed to do better. The Eagles were probably the biggest name, but they've flopped horribly and are now competing to rent out the basement. But you could throw Buffalo (remember all those big free agent signings?), Dallas, Detroit, and Carolina in there too, as they are all ranked twentieth or lower. In the end it doesn't matter - all of these teams suck. But misery loves company, I suppose.
- Statistic of the Week. Last time, one of the readers asked for specific details with this section. I thought this was a great idea and will be adding that from now on. In this edition, we'll take a closer look at offensive line play and sacks allowed per game in particular. In a previous post I gave my formula for the offensive line, which was the sacks allowed per game subtracted from yards per rush attempt (YPC - SA). Since yards per carry are somewhat similar (with lows in the 3.8 range and highs in the 5.3 range) I looked at sacks, which have a much higher range. What I found was rather interesting: having a good quarterback is by far more important than keeping him upright. I know this seems like an obvious statement, but think about all the arguments made in favor of a quarterback because of a bad offensive line: "If he could just get some time to throw," "If he wasn't always running for his life," "It's hard to complete a pass when you're on your back," etc, etc. Here are some teams who have allowed their quarterback to get sacked at least three times per game: Chicago, Green Bay, and San Francisco. They have combined for nineteen wins. Now here are some teams that have allowed the quarterback to be sacked fewer than two times per game: Buffalo, Oakland, and Cleveland. They have combined for eight wins. I'm not saying that this is a perfect correlation - Houston only allows 1.2 sacks per game while Arizona allows 4.4 - but I am saying that it is possible the poor offensive line excuse may not be as viable as everyone thinks. [Statistics: NFL AVG - 2.23 sacks/game; HIGH - Tie, Denver and Houston, 1.2 sacks/game; LOW - Arizona, 4.4 sacks/game; Philadelphia - 3.2 sacks/game]
Now, I almost wonder why I still do these. Then I remember that yes, no matter how disgusted I am with this team, I am still an Eagles fan, and I will obsessive-compulsively analyze each game no matter how pathetic the actual product on the field is. That being said, the Redskins aren't exactly a playoff contender either, but most people are probably inclined to give them the upper hand in this one.
The Eagles will win because of Nick Foles. That is literally the only thing left for this team. The offense is in shambles and the defense is falling apart. Foles played like a rookie last week, with some good and some bad, but he could still inspire the rest of the team because of the change of pace. Eliot talked about a "losing culture." If that exists, then the only thing that can break it is change, and you can't get a much bigger roster change than a new quarterback. Defensively, they might actually have a shot with some substance if they can hold the Redskins to third downs. For as good as Robert Griffin III has been this year, he has not been a third-down quarterback as Washington converts less then thirty percent of them. The challenge is stopping him on downs one and two.
The Eagles will lose because they are a losing team (not to be confused with the "losing culture" mentioned above). I think it's apparent at this point that the roster is not a winning roster. A turnover-prone quarterback with a makeshift defense of free agents and trades is not a winning combination. Toss in the lack of offensive line depth with a playbook that relied heavily on the offensive line play and you have a disaster on your hands. This is a team made up of people who didn't grow into NFL players together, and they are much too old to start doing it now. The only thing that's left is to slowly bleed out (painfully) and go through a rebirth in January once Andy Reid finds himself watching the playoffs from his living room couch, jobless.
Not exactly a pretty picture, but does anyone honestly think it'll turn out any differently? Because if it can, I certainly don't see it. But maybe I'm just too much of a pessimist. In any case, we'll find out over the next month and a half.